By: Hossein Alizadeh
Iranbriefing: According to unreleased reports, in numerous meetings with the Supreme Leader, the Revolutionary Guard has put forward the idea of transferring control of the oil ministry from the government to the Supreme Leader. The oil ministry, Iran’s richest institution and a vital source of revenue, is currently run by one of the commanders of the Revolutionary Guard, Rostam Ghasemi.
To facilitate the grounds for the Revolutionary Guard to meet its aspirations, the Majlis,
Parliament, has ratified a bill which allows the head of the Association of Shareholders of National Iranian Oil Company to nominate the oil minister, a task which the president used to handle before.
The Revolutionary Guard’s Previous Role in Oil Ministry
There is no doubt that the oil ministry is the most significant institution for the Islamic Republic which accounts for 80% of Iran’s total annual income.
The Revolutionary Guard has seemingly taken the decision to transfer control of the oil ministry to the Supreme Leader under heavy pressure exerted by the sanctions imposed by western countries on Iran’s oil industry, which have caused heavy damage to such money making industry. To remain as a ministry, as it is now, the oil ministry has to submit its annual balance sheet to the parliament. Therefore, any sort of transparency in the annual balance sheet will show the extent of damage caused by the sanctions imposed on Iran’s oil industry.
Should it be assumed that such a money-making industry has been hit by the sanctions, this can have serious repercussions and implications for Iran’s oil-based economy.
Therefore, it is to the interest of the system to remove transparency in the oil industry, and that can be made possible only when the oil ministry goes under the control of the Supreme Leader. It is a known fact that hundreds of financial institutions which are being run by the Supreme Leader are not answerable to the country’s judicial or executive bodies and are exempt from paying tax.
With such justification, Iran’s oil industry, freed from British hands by sacrifices made by stalwarts such as 1950s Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, is practically going to be colonized by domestic gangs who consider themselves above any supervision.
A cursory glance at what has been happening in the oil ministry during last six years reveals the scale and depth of the tragedy. At the beginning of Ahmadinejad’s presidency in the ninth government, three of his nominees for the oil ministry, Ali Saeidlou, Sadegh Mahsouli and Mohsen Tahasoli, were not even qualified enough to receive votes of confidence by the lawmakers, and due to a delay in introducing new nominees, the ministry was left with no minister for a period of six months, and many contracts were not implemented as a result.
At the end, Mohammad Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh, caretaker of the oil ministry and one of the most qualified managers of the oil ministry, was unwillingly introduced by Ahmadinejad to lead the oil ministry and survived the vote of confidence by the parliamentarians. However, his administration over the oil ministry did not last for more than one and half years as he was sacked by Ahmadinejad in August 2007 due to his insistence that his position to maintain the oil ministry’s real identity and prevent irresponsible individuals from playing any part in the ministry. He was then succeeded by Gholam Hossein Nozari.
Nozari had a similar faith. He was sacked by Ahmadinejad and succeeded by Masoud Mir Kazemi, Ahmadinejad’s sixth nominee for the oil ministry, who became his third oil minister once he was endorsed by Parliament. Ironically, he was not able to serve the oil ministry for more than two years as he was sacked by Ahmadinejad and succeeded by Rostam Ghasemi, then commander of the Revolutionary Guard, who became Ahmadinejad’s forth oil minister.
During last six years, Ahmadinejad has introduced seven nominees for the oil ministry of whom Nozari, Hamaneh, Kazemi and Ghasemi have been able to survive the vote of confidence by Parliamentarians. Ironically, only two of the seven nominees, Hamaneh and Nozari, had previously worked in the oil ministry and the rest had no previous record in the oil industry. Three of the seven nominees, Mahsouli, Mir Kazemi and Rostam Ghasemi, were senior members of the Revolutionary Guard, a fact which shows that Ahmadinejad has never concealed his zeal to offer the oil ministry to the members of Revolutionary Guard.
The appointment of one of the commanders of the Revolutionary Guard, Rostam Ghasemi, to lead the oil ministry was indeed a step forward in cancerous growth of the Revolutionary Guard. As we know, the Revolutionary Guard has not only dominated the oil and gas sectors, but also all development projects. Rostam Ghasemi is not the only commander of the Revolutionary Guard who has taken the oil revenue under his control. There were other commanders of the Revolutionary Guard who had previously taken hold of development projects. In fact, the Revolutionary Guard is the biggest contractor in the oil and gas sectors as well as road and dam construction.
Amazingly, Iran’s three major ministries, oil ministry, energy ministry and road ministry, are plummeted into the hands of the Revolutionary Guard as they are currently run by the commanders of the Revolutionary Guard.
According to Morad Veisi, a scholar who has done extensive research on the Revolutionary Guard, “The most important point is that there are three parties involved in every development project, and they are contractor, employer and consultant. It seems that in the oil, energy and road ministries, it is the Revolutionary Guard itself which carries out all the mentioned tasks. That means the Revolutionary Guard is both the employer and contractor, and sometimes it works as consultant.”
Majid Namjoo, current energy minister, is a former member of the Revolutionary Guard. He has been holding numerous posts such as project manager and head of development programs at the Constructive Base of the Revolutionary Guard, Head of the Engineering Department of the 41 Army of Sarallah, General-Director of Sarallah Constructive Institution, Deputy Head of the Karbala and Khatam al-Anbia Constructive Bases for development projects.
According to the latest changes that have occurred in the road ministry by Nikzad, current minister of road, those who have had previous record in the Revolutionary Guard have been appointed as deputies and managers of the development projects.
Therefore, the Revolutionary Guard has not only been able to boost its political influence following the Iran-Iraq war, but also the Khatam al-Anbia military-base, the Revolutionary Guard’s powerful economic wing, has been able to win multi-billion dollar contracts without any kind of credible and competitive tender.
Following are such contracts:
1- $1.3 billion contract for constructing a 900 km gas pipeline for transferring 50 million cubic meters of natural gas from Asalouyeh to the Hormozgan, Sistan, and Baluchistan provinces. The contract was awarded to Khatam al-Anbia by the National Iranian Gas Company.
2- Three days after the $1.3 contract between the Revolutionary Guard and the oil ministry, the National Housing Company and Ghorb Company, previously associated with the Revolutionary Guard and the later with the Underprivileged Foundation, secured a $2.4 billion contract with Tehran’s metro.
3- $2.5 billion contract awarded to Khatam al-Anbia for development of the Phases 15 and 16 of the South Pars gas fields.
4- In June 2006, the Revolutionary Guard was awarded with water and electricity projects in the western parts of the country. According to the contract, which was made between the Revolutionary Guard and the energy ministry, all the dam construction projects in West Azerbaijan, Lorestan, Ilam, Kurdistan, Kermanshah and Khuzestan provinces will be fully awarded to the Revolutionary Guard.
Given what has been mentioned, one has to wait and see if the control of oil ministry is going to be transferred to Supreme Leader. Perhaps it will occur, should the political system be changed from presidential to the parliamentary one as envisaged by the Supreme Leader.
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